Copyright and Social Media

24_sussex_ottawa_photography-950x600(pp_w860_h543)dddCouvrette Studio hit the news nationwide recently over a case involving a major media company that we claim  published our image on its Social Media without authorization. We have been careful to avoid comment on the case and will continue to do so as we respect the Court of Law over the court of Twitter.

It is, however, an excellent opportunity to educate the public on the law as it pertains to my industry. The courts have seen a surge in lawsuits regarding everything from copyright to libel and slander on social media. The average person has little knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, but the hundreds of Lawyers who work in copyright, slander and libel in Ottawa certainly do. How we behave in business, in person and even how we ride our bikes is the result of laws that were debated and litigated throughout history.

Simply put, sharing an image from a social media Friend or Fanpage is perfectly legal…as long as the image was obtained properly. The “correctness” of obtaining that image is the tricky part. Entertainers, artists and yes, photographers may post Facebook resolution images with or without a tag or a logo with the knowledge that you will share them…hence promoting that artist. The buttons below my posts on this blog permit and in fact encourage just that.

The problem lies in numerous other situations and these are just a few….

One is attribution… If a credit existed and you claimed an image as your own…you are wrong.

Another is profit…If you sold that image or posted it to create income…also,  wrong.

A third is moral rights….If you claim you had a “lovechild” due to that snap of you and whatshisname (but you photoshopped him in)…dead wrong.


How far the owner of copyright will go is widely varied. We find a dozen cases of infringement a week at our studio without much looking. Yes, we use software that can track an image anywhere and right back to the start of the net. To be honest, 95% of them are not worth pursuing and besides we think it is not only bad karma but just plain silly to track down a high school student who used one of our images on a school project. On the other hand… when our work had been used improperly by hundreds of companies from Awkward Family Photos to major Law Firms and even National Magazines…we pursue them all vigorously.

Our industry, like music, writing, and journalism has been hit by the so called “disruptive tech wave”. That revolution has brought great things but also challenges for which most artists are woefully unprepared . I see posts galore about the theft of images, but this persists because most artists do not have the courage and/or resources to pursue them fully to a court of law. In fact, weak artists contribute to the demise of the industry by settling for less than their work is worth. The attrition rate of new photographers verges on 95% after five years as it now appears that LIKES are not accepted as currency by most landlords and camera stores…

The majority of artists in many fields, sadly focus less on the business basics and that, in effect is the death of any industry. Even a ten year old with a Koolaid stand would not put up with someone stealing their lemons.

Companies work on precedents and set policies based on law. #BooHooHoo is neither a legal defence nor an industry changing action. Legal judgements, on the other hand…change history.

If you think I am joking…try naming your business Micky Mouse Photography.Com and countdown 12 hours until a Lawyer from Disney sends a process server to your doorstep…You might also have fun bringing a pro camera to a Prince concert and posting your work on a blog….as many have learned, not good.

How wild is the wild wild west as regards photography and technology these days…There is a whole site devoted to the hundreds of photographers who have actually stolen other photographers images to promote themselves, incredible as that might seem. As they say…Buyer Beware

The law, however distasteful one might find it on occasion, is key to our entire social system and our economy.

As they say in the legal letters….Govern Yourself Accordingly.



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